written during travels in Japan
The sun and moon without light. Sky and earth in darkness.
Who can uplift the sinking world of women?
I pawned my jewels to sail across the open seas,
parting from my children as I left the border at Jade Gate.
Unbinding my feet to pour out a millennium’s poisons,
I arouse the spirit of women, hundreds of flowers, abloom.
Oh, this poor handkerchief made of merfolk-woven silk,
half stained with blood and half soaked in tears!
A Reply Verse in Matching Rhyme
For Ishii-kun, a Japanese friend
Don’t speak so easily of how women can’t become heroes:
alone, I rode the winds eastward, for ten-thousand miles.
My poetic ponderings, a lone sail soaring across the vast, expansive sea.
Dreaming wistfully of the Three Islands, exquisite under moonlight.
The imperial palace’s bronze camels have fallen, the grief unbearable.
Toiling warhorses are guilt-ridden, not one battle yet won.
As my heart weeps over my homeland’s loathsome troubles,
how can I linger, a guest abroad, savouring spring winds?
Yilin Wang’s translations of these poems were first published in Asymptote. They appear here by permission of the translator.
Qiu Jin was a cross-dressing Chinese feminist, revolutionary, and writer who died by decapitation in 1907 after an unsuccessful rebellion against the Qing government.
Yilin Wang (she/they) is a writer, poet, Chinese-English translator, and editor who lives on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver, Canada). Her writing and translations have appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, POETRY Magazine, Guernica, The Malahat Review, The Toronto Star, Words Without Borders, CBC Books, and elsewhere. She is the editor and translator of The Lantern and Night Moths, an anthology of modern Chinese poetry forthcoming with Invisible Publishing in 2024. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop. Website: www.yilinwang.com / Twitter: @yilinwriter.
Kerry Lush is a photographer, designer, and stylist living in Queensland, Australia. Her work can be viewed on Facebook at Lush Creations https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100066787272286 and on Instagram at hybrid_queen_photography.